How To Refresh Your Dining Room On A Budget

Malky Gestetner November 14, 2023

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Design is a passion of mine, but designing on a dime is even more exciting. Creating a beautiful space with a high budget is not a kuntz (a clever trick) as is designing something beautiful and keeping within budget. 

However, like with all things in life, keep within budget, but don’t go all cheap. Some items are necessary to spend on as you need the quality. When adding some pricier items, the cheaper items suddenly rise in value. And then we have a budgeted design that looks like its worth more than you actually paid for.

Pro Tip: Design on a dime, but be wary of DIY. Usually, the amateurs showing you their DIY hacks are not, in truth, amateurs. They are very well versed in what they are DIYing, unlike you and me.

Traditional Design

Traditional design is on the rise. Tradition is trending. How does that sound? A bit of an oxymoron? Well, that’s precisely the point. As we know, all styles come back around — just with a little twist. This time, traditional concepts are being presented with modern pieces cleverly dispersed throughout the design.

Design Tip: I have always gravitated towards traditional design (so this is exciting for me), but for the many of you who prefer a more modern aesthetic, consider using this rule in reverse. Incorporate traditional touches to a predominantly modern design.

Pro tip: When upgrading your design, be very mindful of what’s currently in the room. Opt to purchase only the items that blend with your design over the pieces that you may like better.

Save Money On Your Dining Table

My number one rule for dining room design is to save money when buying your dining room table. Yes, its important to get a functional, decent piece of furniture, but don’t go all out. How many of us end of covering it with boards or tablecloths anyway, and then no one gets to see it. Spending money on something nobody sees hurts me.

Rather, use your budget towards fabulous dining room chairs. Chairs need to be high quality for many reasons. Recently, I found a hidden gem located just an hour from Monsey and Lakewood where they customize for you timeless dining room chairs in your preferred color and material.

Design tip:  Dining rooms are rich in tradition, and that’s why I love to go traditional when it comes to dining rooms in general, and specifically, the dining chairs. Opt for chairs with wooden edging, as it creates a timeless and luxurious design, as opposed to the newer, more modern metal look.


Mirrors offer a cost-effective way to upgrade your dining room, and here’s why.

– Firstly, they add an illusion of a larger space, which is especially valuable if your room is on the smaller side, like mine.

– Secondly, mirrors, being design pieces themselves, add beauty to your room.

– They are a material that can often be very pricey, but can be found at much lower price points. Hobby Lobby sells fantastic mirrors at incredibly affordable prices.

Design tip: I love arranging three matching mirrors side by side on top of a buffet table. It’s more of a designer touch as opposed to one large mirror. It also creates a beautiful reflective glow when you light the Shabbat candles there on Friday nights.



As I mentioned earlier, be smart on what you spend on in a dining room.

– Dining room chairs are a must.

– Tables are a no-go.

– Mirrors can be surprisingly cheap.

Now lets talk about curtains. They can be a point of debate when budgeting, I believe you can go cheap if you know the tricks of the trade. But they are not a point of debate to have or not to have.
Until now, you may have overlooked  putting curtains in your dining room. I’m here to encourage you to reconsider. To me, they are non-negotiable, as they thoroughly enhance the ambiance of your dining room. Curtains give the room a finished feel, and that elevates the space from looking nice to looking truly “designer.”

– You can actually find beautiful options for sheer curtains on Amazon.

– IKEA has nice choices as well.

– Etsy is another fantastic option for customizing the exact size and material to match your specific requirements.

However, when purchasing the hardware, do not cut corners. Invest in high quality rods and hooks from reputable stores. You want the metal looking accurate and the craftsmanship to be up to par.

Three ways to hang your curtains:

1. Hooks – use hooks for a timeless look

2. Rod pockets –


3. Double Rods –  Create layered curtains by using sheers or basic curtains for the inner layer. For the outer layer, add all the prints and textures you dream of to complement your room design. This way, you can achieve custom-looking curtains with minimal effort.

Design tip: Make sure the curtain length is just right, leaving, about 1/2-to-1 inch of space between the curtain and the floor. If they touch the floor, the curtains wont drape naturally, which can effect their overall appearance. To adjust the length, use an iron-on adhesive for a simple and neat fix.

Design tip: Match the curtains to something else in your room. On Etsy, the sellers can make you both curtains and a table runner to match. How’s that for a truly custom dining room experience?

Picture Wall

Creating a picture wall is an excellent way to add depth to your design by making your room personal and interesting.

1. The first step is to take your hodgepodge of family photos and make it into a cohesive picture wall by changing all your prints to black and white.

2. Now, take this concept a step further for your dining room. You can pay tribute to your family’s heritage by creating a ‘yichus wall’ above the candles. Gather photographs of your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. For the finishing touch, add a picture of your immediate family and place it in the center.

3. Next, buy frames in various shapes and sizes, such as oval frames, square frames, and rectangle frames. Because the pictures inside are all the same colorway, having fun with the shapes of the frames is allowed. This trick will give your dining room a truly designer look.

Design Tip: In addition to mixing and matching the frames in various shapes and sizes, consider mixing their colors too. Incorporate both gold and silver frames on the same wall, while keeping with the rule of color matching the pictures.

Frame Your Own Artwork

Artwork is expensive. Therefore, I have an idea for you that you may not have considered before. Paint your own works of art. There are so many advantages to this idea, and I encourage you to give it a go. I am confident that many of you, and I want to emphasize, many, have the ability to paint, even if you’ve never attempted it before. If you do believe its beyond your skill level, try doing simple modern art.

Start by purchasing the appropriate paper or canvas for your project. Once you’ve created something  you never thought possible, take your work and have it  professionally framed.  You’ll be surprised at how polished and finished your art work will look because it is framed properly.

Design Tip: Add touches of gold leaf paint to elevate your paintings to the next level. You can make intentional strokes around your artwork, or another idea is to dip a brush in paint and splatter it across the painting for a cool effect.

Plaques Under Pictures

A new obsession of mine is placing plaques under family pictures or artwork. It will turn your dining room into a museum! I mean don’t we all (well, most of us anyways) want that look in our dining rooms?
You can have these plaques made on Etsy.

– To personalize it for family pictures, write the location and the date.

– For plaques under artwork, write the artist and the year it was painted.

Design tip: Make sure all the plaques are the same size and color, as well as the same distance away from your pictures, to give a cohesive look throughout your space.

Curio For Silver

Making use of what you already have at home is the surest way to save money. Wondering what you have in your house, you ask? Head down to your basement and pull out those gorgeous, expensive, traditional silver pieces you received as wedding gifts. You sadly are hiding them there because they are passé. Well, not anymore. Silver is on its way back, but this time they should be displayed in a more modern encasing (tradition with a twist, remember?).

Design Tip: For the updated silver display, only place actual silver in the curio and no other chatchkes. Matching all items in a display is the new way to do things.


Focus on what you already have in your space and elevate it. Use accent lighting to accentuate the beauty of the room.  If you have a stunning piece of furniture, or an original artwork, or anything that you specifically enjoy, when light is shining on it, it will become a focal point in the room.

– Install LED lighting beneath the top of all of your built-ins or all your floating shelves. You can find battery-powered lighting strips on Amazon, which eliminates the need to hardwire them.

Add wall sconces to your walls without the need to pay an electrician to hardwire them, as well.

– Add a spotlight on the ceiling and place it close to the wall where your decorative piece is located. In this position, the lighting will precisely accent the desired area.

– Purchase a hardwired picture light to create that museum look we mentioned earlier. It will accent the pictures or art on your wall perfectly.

Design tip:

Ikea Shelving With Framing

If you’re already familiar with this idea, that’s great. However, if you’ve haven’t heard of it yet, this is the best hack you’ll come across. Buy IKEA bookshelves to achieve a built-in wall look without the need for a fully custom job.

When choosing the bookshelves, focus on the functionality for your room, but aim to find bookshelves that are the best possible fit for the available space. However, it doesn’t need to be an exact fit because here’s the trick: have a framer install moldings around the edges of the bookshelves to achieve the built-in appearance. No one will know it’s Ikea. And this can save you thousands of dollars.

Design Tip: For dining rooms, purchase the IKEA Billys with the glass doors to display your silver (that you just got from your basement), if you don’t go for a curio look.

Design tip: Switch out the IKEA knobs for your own knobs and pulls to make it look really custom.

Malky Gestetner is an Interior Designer based in Monsey, New York.